American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Kokshaal-Too, Borkolday Range, First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Borkolday Range, first ascents. The Borkoldoy range is a limestone massif situated north of the Dankova region of the West Kokshaal-Too. Apart from British expeditions in 1995 and 2002, which operated in the northeast and southwest corners of the group, the range is little-explored by mountaineers. In September 2003 an ISM expedition comprising Adrian Nelhams and myself (guides), Tony Allen, James Bruton, Jo da Silva, Steve Kempley, Nigel Kettle, Clive McCafferty, Neil Sutcliffe, and Jane Whitmore (expedition doctor), set up base camp at the head of the Kynar Valley. This long curving valley cuts deeply into the southeast part of the range, and on its south side is the massif dominated by Pik 5,060m, a giant rocky peak taking the form of a narrow crest running north to south.

First reconnaissance was made up the canyons either side of Pik 5,060m, and ABC established on the west side at 4,130m. From here Nelhams, Kettle, Allen & Sutcliffe traversed the fine mixed peak at the top of the canyon (Peak Mars, 4,905m, AD) while Bruton, da Silva, McCafferty, Whitmore, and I climbed the neighboring Peak Virgo (4,744m). Nelhams’ team then attempted the fortress-like peak north of Peak Mars, but was stopped by a 50m barrier of steep compact rock near the summit. Bruton, da Silva, and I tried the huge north ridge of Pik 5,060m. We traversed its first summit (Mramorney Cupol [Marble Dome] 4,700m), but an hour beyond this they were stopped by a deep breech which would have been very difficult and time-consuming to cross. This peak remains a major and challenging objective.

The expedition then moved around to more accessible peaks on the north side of the range (two valleys west of the area explored by the 1995 British expedition) and enjoyed more success. Base camp was established in the Chon Tor valley, which divides higher up into two glaciated valleys. The team split and moved up to ABCs high on each glacier. From the east glacier Nelhams, Allen, Kempley, Kettle, and Sutcliffe climbed the southeast ridge of PE Peak (4,740m, PD), the west ridge of Peak Obsorny (4,914m, AD), and the south ridge of Gromovoy (Thunder) Peak (4,840m, PD+). They came close to success on the prominent triple-summited peak forming the east side of the valley, turning back due to avalanche danger. At the head of this glacier a superb snow peak characterized by soaring corniced ridges remains unclimbed.

From the western glacier Bruton, McCafferty, and I, with a second rope of da Silva, Whitmore, and Russian companion Sasha Miyusov, climbed the southwest ridge of Peak Tomos (4,869m, AD), the beautifully symmetrical snow peak that dominates the glacier. Another classic summit—Shutnik (Jester) 4,890m—was climbed by the north spur at PD+. Ascents were made of Scalnya Kiska (4,666m) and a fine rock pillar above ABC: Snezny Chelovek (Snowman) grade V. Finally, everyone with energy left joined Nelhams for the 4,542m peak above base camp, a stunning viewpoint in perfect weather.

Pat Littlejohn, U.K.

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